It is no secret that Mitsubishi is in trouble in North America. Sales may have been up last month, but it still sold less than five thousand cars. But the makers of the mighty Evo isn’t giving up just yet. It is partnering with Renault/Nissan to develop a new small car.
The focus of the new strategic agreement will be a jointly developed Kei car known as the Priority One. Keis are typically only sold in Japan but for Mitsubishi the Priority One might just be the next generation of I-MiEV electric city car.
Keis are a special class of Japanese cars that receive tax incentives to remain tiny and underpowered.
These cars are extremely popular in Japan because of their cheapness and their ability to maneuver around the space age Kasbah of cities like Tokyo. Unfortunately their miniscule size –limited to 11 feet long – and low power, which current Japanese regulations limit 63 hp, make them difficult to sell on the world market.
What might make the Priority One different is the work that Nissan and Renault have already done.
Together the French and Japanese automakers also have an impressive EV design track record. The Leaf is one of the best selling EVs in the United States, and Renault makes several very successful EVs in Europe that share technology with the Leaf.
With Renault already working on an electric version of its own small city car, one that had been previously adapted for the Kei market, it would make sense for any Mitsubishi EV to share components and technology.
This project could offer Mitsubishi the shot in the arm it needs to survive its current difficulties. A successful Kei car would shore up its sales in its core domestic market, but the EV twist might make Mitsubishi a house hold brand for the first time since they stopped selling the Eclipse.